Pakistan’s Balochistan province is a hotbed for violent attacks driven by local Baloch separatists and Taliban-linked Sunni extremists. Our Observers in the provincial capital of Quetta describe daily life in a town once known for craftsmanship and colourful bazaars, but that is now more popular with terrorists than tourists.
Pakistan’s Balochistan province is a sparsely-populated, hostile place prone to deadly sectarian and separatist attacks. In the capital, Quetta, almost forty people died in a suicide blast
during a policeman’s funeral last Thursday, August 8. The following day, ten people were killed when gunmen stormed a mosque
while Eïd prayers were in full-swing. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks.
The southwestern province is home to two bitter conflicts: the Baloch Liberation Army’s (BLA) separatist struggle, and Sunni extremist attacks on the minority Hazara Shia community.
Sunni extremists from Afghanistan settled in neighbouring Balochistan province after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Numerous groups wreak havoc on the Hazara population
but the most prominent is the al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). It is infamous for attacking buses of Hazara pilgrims, mosques and markets. The Pakistan Human Rights Commission
estimates over two thousand Hazara have perished since 2001 and fifty thousand have fled Quetta, leaving the remaining half a million squashed into the only two areas they feel relatively safe enough to live in: Hazara Town and Alamdar Road
Struggling for an independent Baloch nation, the BLA regularly aim deadly attacks at the security forces. Non-terrorist Balochs claim security officers and corrupt officials retaliate by kidnapping Balochs for ransom, under the pretext they are suspected nationalist terrorists.
A no-go place
for many, including foreign journalists without an escort, information about daily life in Quetta is rarely leaked.